I’m old enough to remember vividly the 1970’s when I was in high school and college. And while there are plenty of things in that period to diss, let’s focus on crafts for now.
Making crafts was very big at this time. Not only did needlepoint become popular, so did quilting, and macrame, and making strange things from household items. Some of these, such as needlepoint and quilting have benefitted greatly from the changes and modernization that happened to them in the 70’s. Others, like macrame, have pretty much disappeared. Still others have been resurrected and given new names — think about “upcycling.”
There was another aspect of much of this activity that is also showing up in today’s crafting movement. I’m afraid that lots of this stuff looked “handmade.” In this context “handmade” just means that something is poorly executed and not very nice.
Being the daughter of an artist, I grew up surrounded by art and equally by crafts. To my mom’s mind and to the minds of her artist friends, a pot, wall hanging, or woven basket had as legitimate a claim to being art as a painting. It was also done with the same care and regard for excellence. It was all done by hand and a respect for the worker, his knowledge, and his craft was always there.
If something is made “by hand” the mark of the maker is on it, not the mark of the machine. You see it in a brush stroke on a painting, in the indentation from a thumb on a pot, and in the texture of the stitches in needlepoint. Items made by hand can have mistakes in them (after all we’re only human) but in them there is a striving for the beautiful and for perfection.
I can’t ever remember being taught this explicitly, nor can I remember teaching it to my children. I love the items made by hand that surround me because they all show the touch of the maker’s hand and they all show a striving for perfection.
That striving & the practice it requires is the hallmark of by hand.
But “homemade” is a different story when applied to crafts. Back in the 70’s and today “homemade” items look sloppy. They aren’t neatly made. In needlepoint stitches are skipped, tension is uneven and the finished item isn’t straight. Yes, we all do this stuff as we learn, but what bothers me is that there seems to be these days a celebration of sloppiness.
All too often there is an unapologetic, in your face attitude that celebrates poor execution, a lack of knowledge, and, all too often, a disregard for beauty. With the rise of “crafting” (an awful word) we have gone back to the sloppy homemade look of earnest flower children in the 70’s but now we have commercialized it and anointed it with celebrities, TV shows, and books.
I’m sorry, I don’t like it. I don’t like ugly, I don’t like sloppy, I don’t like the situation where ignorance and poor execution is combined with a possible good design and then be told I should like it.
I am far from the best stitcher in the world, but I do strive to get better and I try, in everything I do, to make it look not homemade, but as if it was made by hand.
I hope you do too.